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Santa Elena

Posted on 27 February 2013 by Nazca admin

The objective of this project was to generate ecological and basic cartographic information for the Puntilla Santa Elena marine area as a precursor to its declaration as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). This study took place in April of 2008 with funding from CI (Conservation International – Ecuador).

The Puntilla Santa Elena Reserve for Faunal Production is located in the province of Santa Elena, Salinas county, and covers a total of 47,447 hectares, of which 173 are terrestrial and the rest belonging to marine habitats.

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We started by compiling ecological information in subtidal rocky habitats within the MPA and its zone of influence. Using underwater visual census methods, the richness and abundance of species was registered for fishes, invertebrates, and benthic communities associated with rocky habitats, as well as general aspects of state of conservation.

We registered 86 fish species, of which 16 were new observations for the Easter Pacific. The most representative fish groups were viejas, roncadores damiselas and the group of the cabrillas, meros and guatos. 22 species of mobile macroinvertebrates were registered, most commonly species of sea star, clam, snail, octopus, crab, and lobster. There was a high diversity of sessile organisms (75 species between algae and invertebrates), with a predominance of corals and gorgonians. It is worth noting that gorgonians in this zone form widespread dense underwater forests, forming a unique habitat in the Eastern Pacific.

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The preliminary abundance data, both for fish and mobile macroinvertebrate species, suggests that historically, the Puntilla Santa Elena has received strong fishing pressures. In all censused areas, the abundances and average sizes of commercial fishes and invertebrates were low. This information suggests that the marine resources are in a state of over-exploitation and that recuperation of these populations will require no-impact areas within the Santa Elena MPA and the creation of management policies that will help to protect the available resources.

Seafloor mapping of the MPA was done by boat transects using a single beam sonar device that collected georeferenced information about the subtidal benthic cover down to a depth of 50 m. The predominant seafloor type in the area is a mixed type (hard substrate interspersed with sandy and muddy bottom), which covers a total of 38% of the mapped area, followed by sandy bottom (37%), and finally a rocky-sandy bottom, which represents 26% of the total.

It is worth noting the biological importance of the area in terms of the presence of unique habitats and species with high potential for sport fishing and scuba diving. This project provides valuable baseline information, both biological and cartographic, that can now be used for the elaboration of a management and zoning plan for the Puntilla Santa Elena Reserve for Faunal Production.

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Machalilla National Park

Posted on 27 February 2013 by Nazca admin

This project’s objective was to develop a multiple usage zoning plan for coastal marine and terrestrial habitats and natural resources in the Machalilla National Park (MNP). The proposal was based on identifying priority biological and cultural diversity elements in the MNP, as well as diagnosing areas used by human activities such as fishing zones.

The MNP is located on the southeastern coast of the province of Manabí. It was created in 1979, and covers an area of 67,277 hectares. It is unique among continental Ecuadorian protected areas in that it includes a terrestrial zone and the coastal marine area directly adjacent to it. The terrestrial zone possesses important dry and humid coastal forests as well as a rich cultural history approximately 5000 years old. The marine area of the park is notable for the presence of the only coral reefs in the country’s continental region, its high biodiversity, the presence of species of touristic importance such as seabirds and sea mammals, and for the beauty of its beaches and coastal views.

The evaluation of marine resource use in the area was achieved through interviews, recompilation of secondary information, and visits to fishing villages that accessed MNP waters (Puerto Cayo, Machalilla, Puerto López, and Salango). Fishing activity was characterized by the fishing method, resource usage, fishing zones, environmental impacts of fishing activity, the level of organization of the communities, and the needs and perceptions regarding the management of the national park and the conservation of its resources.

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In order to develop the zoning plan for the MNP, we prioritized certain environmental elements of marine and terrestrial biological diversity, as well as the cultural resources that, being under protection, include a large part of the distribution of priority species, zones with high pressures from human use, and systems that have limited representation on the local (inside the MNP) and national levels.

The terrestrial and coastal marine zoning plan for the MNP used as its basal model the previous zoning plan (Management Plan 1998) and used a two-part scheme, in which both areas were divided into four zones:

  1. High protection zone,
  2. Special management zone (water resources),
  3. Ecological restoration zone, and
  4. Public use zone (in the terrestrial case) and artisanal fishing zone (for the marine area).

The different zones possess different management characteristics and are classified according to their conservation priority and their availability for use by the inhabitants of the MNP area.

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Galera – San Francisco

Posted on 27 February 2013 by Nazca admin

Since 2004, NAZCA has focused its research and conservation efforts on the north coast of Ecuador, specifically in the Galera-San Francisco peninsula. This zone was identified as a priority area for the conservation of marine biodiversity and recently was designated as a Marine Reserve.

The reserve encompasses 54,604 ha, ranging between 0 and 800 m in depth, and covers 37 km of coastline, making it the largest marine protected area in continental Ecuador. The classification of “Marine Reserve,” according to Ecuadorian law, implies a multiple use focus and a participatory management plan that includes local community participation so that conservation objectives directly coincide with an improved quality of human life.

The Galera-San Francisco Marine Reserve possesses a wide diversity of coastal marine habitats that are home to species characteristic of tropical zones. Among the most representative habitats are gorgonian reefs and other types of corals. Evidence also exists that the biggest populations of black coral in the country live in this region. There is also a wide variety of fish species associated with rocky and coral bottoms, many of which are potentially important as tourist attractions, such as the grouper and whale shark, a a few species provide valuable fisheries, such as the bearded brotula, snapper, and dolphin-fish. This is also an feeding area for five species of sea turtle and at least 20 different species of whales and dolphins, among the most significant, humpbacked whales, pilot whales, common and spotted dolphins, and sperm whales.

From the anthropologist’s point of view, the Galera-San Francisco zone provides an excellent example of a Tolita cultural settlement. Additionally, the lighthouses of Punta Galera and San Francisco act as a revealing historical testimony documenting the history of colonial Ecuador.

Seven costal populations founded on fishing and agricultural industry lay adjacent to the marine reserve. These local populations have been key actors in the process of declaring the marine reserve as well as planning the implementation of conservation activities. An effective management strategy requires the development and support of a sustainable ecosystem-based fishery management plan in coordination with the conservation of the extraordinary biodiversity of this area.

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For the past 5 years Nazca has worked in projects that promote the participation of local communities in conservation action. We have completed a diagnostic analysis of the marine coastal environments, artesian fishing activities, and socio-economic status of the populations. We have also prepared an alternative management study as well as an analysis examining the potential for conservation agreements. The compilation of these studies forms the baseline for information about the reserve. Accompanied by political and technical support from the environmental ministry, the Muisne municipality, as well as institutions including Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, The Lighthouse Foundation, The Jeffrey Cook Trust, FFLA y ECOLEX, these studies resulted in the declaration of the Galera-San Francisco Marine Reserve on October 31st, 2008.

Nazca works extensively with artisanal fishermen from the marine reserve coastal zone in order to promote responsible fishing. We are also in the process of collecting cartographic and ocean floor data and implementing a program of submarine monitoring. The information that we are compiling will serve as the basis needed to further elaborate the management and zoning plans for the reserve. The implementation of the first phase of conservation agreements, including the mapping of artisanal fishing areas and biological and socio-economic monitoring, is the first step toward an effective management plan promoting conservation within the reserve.

More information:
- MAP: Location of the proposed Marine Reserve and the interpretation centre (4,96 MB, pdf). Also available in the PUBLICATIONS section.
- POSTER: Participatory initiative to protect key marine ecosystems in Ecuador (232 KB, pdf). Also available in the PUBLICATIONS section.
- ARTICLE: Private Incentives to Conserve Ecuador’s Coast (150 KB, pdf).Also available in the PUBLICATIONS section.

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